Where the “undetectable God” takes you

A new post on Fr Aidan Kimel’s blog Eclectic Orthodoxy caught my eye, because it references the late Hugh McCann, whose book Creation and the Sovereignty of God impressed me greatly recently. McCann seeks to show how true libertarian freedom is compatible with – and even depends upon – full divine sovereignty over all created events.

Kimel picks up on this theme (his links to McCann are worth following, rather than have me botch an explanation). McCann’s scheme is an example of the principle of double causation, which in one form another has been the dominant understanding of thinking Christians for many centuries, and of the Hebrews before that, at least as far back as the writing of the books of Kings and Genesis. I would be the first to say that no detailed philosophical scheme, including McCann’s, is without its problems, because at best they’re attempts to look as far as is possible into the most hidden things of God, and at worst they’re in danger of fooling us into thinking we understand the secret things of God.

But they’re valuable in demonstrating that there are ways to grapple with such mysteries as divine ordination and human freedom without divorcing them, and they’re necessary because too many people down the millennia have, by opposing God’s causation to ours as if they are simply alternatives, sacrificed either divine sovereignty, or human freedom, or both. Open Theism is a current example of the former: the latter is less conducive to the autonomous spirit of the times, but could be exemplified by Hypercalvinism.

Kimel points us back to a former post where he has discussed double causation, citing this time mainly Herbert McCabe, an also-deceased Dominican philosopher of religion (influenced, it seems, mainly by Aquinas, Wittgenstein and Karl Marx!). McCabe writes:

“All created causes make a difference to the world. They are parts of the world which impose themselves on other parts of the world. When the hurricane has passed by, you can see that a hurricane has passed by; the world is different from what it was before. But God’s creative and sustaining activity does not make the world different from what it is—how could it? It makes the world what it is. The specific characteristic effect of the Creator is that things should exist, just as the specific characteristic effect of a kicker is that things should be kicked. But clearly there is no difference between existing and not existing. The world is not changed in any way by being created. If you like, you can talk about the horse before it began to exist and the horse after it began to exist (though it is an odd way of talking); but you must not say that there is any difference between the two, for if the horse before it began to exist was different, then a different horse would have come into existence.”

This quotation speaks wisdom, for it accounts for the fact that things that are to us caused by the necessity of law, or logic, or by the exigencies of chance, or by free human decisions are, to God, simply created, for he creates all these causes and their operations in eternity. God is not another agent in the world, but the creative cause of all such agents, which nevertheless retain their status as true causes.

Unfortunately, Kimel then goes on to cite McCabe to conclude that such double causation proves the folly of Intelligent Design, and indeed of natural theology generally:

And this, by the way, is the reason why intelligent design theory is fatally flawed:

“A hurricane leaves its thumbprint on the world, but God does not leave any such thumbprint. We can say, ‘This looks as though a hurricane has been here’, but we cannot sensibly say, ‘This looks as though God has been here.’ That is why the famous ‘Argument from Design’ (commonly attributed to William Paley) is a silly one. You can’t say, ‘look how the world is [orderly, complicated or whatever], so it must have been made by God.’ You can no more say, ‘This sort of world must have been made by God’, than you can say, ‘This sort of world must exist.’ The arguments of St Thomas Aquinas to show that God exists (as distinct from the five arguments usually attributed to him) do not try to show that because the world has this or that feature it must be made by God. They try to lead us from consideration of this or that feature to the very difficult and elusive metaphysical notion that the world exists instead of not existing.”

Eddie Robinson, in particular amongst Hump writers, has noted (and questioned the necessity of) the tendency of Thomistic writers from Ed Feser to writers on BioLogos to trash natural theology totally. At one level, their observations may be valid. To speak of God’s “interfering” with nature is nonsensical when all the time his creative and sustaining activity “makes the world what it is.” To distinguish what God has designed from what he has not is invalid on the same grounds (Free process people should take a lesson from that, probably far more than IDists). And it is true to say that where Aquinas’s “Five Ways” succeed, they have deductive force rather than the merely inductive force of empirical arguments for design.

But I think the desire to distance themselves from Paley may perhaps blind such thinkers to another level in the matter. And I think the case is made by the limiting instance of miracles. If, for example, we take the feeding of the five thousand, it is perfectly possible to couch the event in the same terms that McCabe uses: as far as God is concerned, to create from five loaves and two fishes sufficient to feed five thousand men, and have baskets left over, is neither more difficult nor more extraordinary than his creating and sustaining the loaves and fishes in the first place, or creating the chance that somebody had them with him, or even creating the disciples in their capacity as questioners of Jesus’s ability to feed so many. To paraphrase McCabe, we might say:

The loaves and fishes are not changed in any way by being created. If you like, you can talk about the loaves before they were multiplied and the loaves after they were multiplied; but you must not say that there is any difference between the two, for if the loaves before they were multiplied were different, then different multiplied loaves would have come into existence.

But we know, without any long reflection, that this is an inadequate understanding for although, since God is eternal, the incident of the loaves and fishes was part of God’s whole timeless creation, yet as an event in time and place not only did it uniquely demonstrate God’s immediate power, and his concern for that particular crowd, but it took place for that very purpose. For the purpose of miracles is primarily, apart from anything else, to show God’s power.

There are other reasons too, of course: God also wanted to show compassion, to validate the ministry of Jesus, and to teach a number of lessons from the parallels with Moses as the provider of food from God for Israel to the lesson of Jesus as the true bread which John goes on to tell in his gospel. But even those reasons must begin with “Why then did God show this great demonstration of his power over nature?”

The same is true of every miracle, not only in the Bible but in the experience of that multitude of saints down the centuries who have prayed to God as their only salvation from distress, and seen the humanly expected course of things altered:

And what more shall I say? Time will not allow me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and obtained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging fire, and escaped the edge of the sword; who gained strength from weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

We may add that the Bible’s witness to itself is that it reveals, in a special way, the wisdom and truth of God, for all that it was written by men with the same brains, pens and parchment as are common in the world. Now it may be argued that miraculous signs and special revelation serve a particular purpose which is not served by the ordinary entities and events of nature; they are exceptional, by definition. But that caveat doesn’t change the fact that McCabe’s argument is not, after all, universally true: if there are sufficient reasons, then God’s creative energy – though to him, creative business as usual, we may happily concur – may be witnessed by his creation as a revelation of his apparent direct action within space-time.

To deny that any such inferences may be drawn from events in nature, as opposed to the ministry of Jesus or the prophets – such as the inference of design in contradistinction to chance – one first needs to be sure that there are no sufficient reasons for God to have, in appearance, “shown his hand” as he does in miracle. And, as far as I can see, it is not possible to reach such certainty.

Indeed, on the contrary there are reasons to suppose that God might well wish to be “detectable” in this way. I suggest that all such reasons probably have to do with mankind, and our recognition of God, for no doubt it is within the ability of God simply to have made the world as it is appear, ex nihilo, with no train of secondary efficient causes.

So I don’t think one should say, for example, that God had to act within time to bring the DNA code into existence because “natural causes” could not have been sufficient. He could have made them sufficient and the Deists would have chortled all the way to science’s predetermined outcomes. On the other hand, should God deliberately create secondary causes insufficient for such a thing to occur, it would be a demonstration of his power and deity to those who studied those causes and found the natural probabilities too low to be realistic. And we do, after all, read at various points in Scripture, not least in Romans 1, that God did make creation to reveal his hand transparently, and made humans in turn to be able to perceive it, unless they blind themselves rebelliously.

This would be as much as to say that there seems no compelling reason why God might not quite deliberately build gaps into his workmanship which, giving the iindication of direct divine activity in the past, would cause men to honour him. Remember, “God of the gaps” is an argument based on Deism, not on the biblical God, for whom nature is a tool for him to use as he pleases.

But of course, we do not need to dig so deep into nature as the DNA code, or the other byways explored by Intelligent Design proponents. As I wrote in discussing Asa Gray, the arguments of natural theology used by both him amd William Paley do not depend on seemingly miraculous interventions, but on the very fact of cosmos rather than chaos, of which individual examples like the eye or reproduction are only illustrative examples. As I quoted Gray:

Organic Nature abounds with unmistakable and irresistible indications of design, and, being a connected and consistent system, this evidence carries the implication of design throughout the whole. On the other hand, chance carries no probabilities with it, can never be developed into a consistent system, but, when applied to the explanation of orderly or beneficial results, heaps up improbabilities at every step beyond all computation. To us, a fortuitous Cosmos is simply inconceivable. The alternative is a designed Cosmos.

The argument does not, in fact, say that because these things are so complicated they would not have happened without God’s intervention: rather, they focus Aquinas’s teleological argument on the harmonious relationship between all the ends found in nature which, according to the Fifth way, are each in themselves evidence for God (and against the alternative, which is chance).

I’m not sure that God could have made a wisely-constituted oikonomos without leaving the tell-tale signs of his designing hand: if he had done so, it would have been pretty inhospitable for us, I think. But Scripture tells us that he always intended to show his power and deity to mankind in some limited way by his creation, just as he intended to show it in more detail by that same Scripture, by miraculous signs and – supremely – by stepping into the world in the Person of Jesus.

So whilst we may well hold, on sound philosophical grounds (which I happen to share), that the world is “all that it is” by one act of creation in eternity, including all its contingencies, human choices, and divine acts as well, there seems no good reason to treat divine acts in creation, seen from our own viewpoint, as being just as different in kind from the regular happenings of nature as are the free choices which, we believe, are part of of the divine image that makes us more than merely “natural”.

Taking the undetectability of God too far doesn’t only get rid of natural theology (and that rather unjustly), but miracles as well, and indeed most that makes the God of the philosophers differ from the God of Jesus Christ. I’ll finish by quoting Blaise Pascal’s memorial to the experience of the latter in his own life:

The year of grace 1654
Monday, November 23, day of Saint Clement, pope and martyr,
and others in the martyrology.
Vigil of Saint Chrysogonus, martyr, and others.
From about ten-thirty in the evening to about half an hour after midnight.
Fire.
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and savants.
Certitude, certitude; feeling, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ. Deum meum et Deum vestrum.
“Thy God shall be my God.”
Forgetting the world and everything, except God.
He is only found by the paths taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
“Just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.”
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I separated myself from him: Dereliquerunt me lantern aquae vivae.
“My God, will you abandon me?”
May I not be eternally separated from him.
“This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I separated myself from him; I fled him, renounced him, crucified him.
May I never be separated from him!
He is only kept by the paths taught in the Gospel.
Total and sweet renunciation.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day of trial on earth.
Non obliviscar sermones tuos. Amen.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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25 Responses to Where the “undetectable God” takes you

  1. Ian Thompson says:

    You ask: ‘should God deliberately create secondary causes insufficient for such a thing to occur’, since you realize that then God will be more involved afterwards (as you want).

    This only makes sense if there is a reason for the secondary causes being necessarily insufficient, otherwise it sounds like a deliberate and arbitrary weakening.

    One possible reason may possibly derived from the fact that God is all of Love Itself, Life Itself, and Wisdom Itself.

    Then: if God gave Love, Life and Wisdom themselves to secondary causes, he would be making them like Gods: self-sufficient. The one thing I know for sure is that I am not God, but am continually dependent on God for everything good and true.

    So the only to let us creatures have love, life and wisdom is to not give them to us as an essential part of ourselves, but given to us gradually as a concurrent cause in our lives. Only that we can we act from truth and love what is good reliably.

    Do you see the reasoning here?

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Hi Ian

      Yes, that makes some kind of sense to me – and provides a reason within non-human creation why God should “act imminently” (with all the caveats already mentioned on what that means from God’s perspective).

      The question it raised with me is akin to my criticism of TE’s open process idea that creation “ought” to be free and autonomous. When one asks what that actually means for and evolving species, say, the answer is nothing, id one rejects panpsychism: apparently a Protoceratops has no awareness of whether it stays the same of evolves into a Triceratops (and no say in the matter), so it’s not free at all. It’s even more nebulous to pin “freedom” on “Nature” abstractly conceived.

      In the same way I ask (without necessarily denying) what the immediate dependence on God – for example, in some direct act of God turning said Protoceratops into a Triceratops) means for the creature, or for the world. As I suggested in the OP, for rational beings (men and angels) observing the same, the reinforcement of our creaturely dependance is obvious.

      Psalm 104, more than any other Scriptural passage, I think, not only stresses that theme of constant dependance, but that of creation’s “awareness” of that dependance, as it looks to God for its well being, or shrinks when he withdraws life. But I’m interested in what that might mean beyond metaphor.

      • Ian Thompson says:

        I agree that, in the first instance, ideas of ‘concurrent causation’ don’t yet tell you enough. It does not immediately give clues about prehistoric evolution, for example.

        It will only give practical consequences when we have more specific ideas about that causation. This involves (necessarily) getting into theology, and very probably theology that cannot be immediately extracted from bible texts.

        For instance, as soon as we start talking about concurrent causation, we have to revise ideas of God’s “absolute omnipotence” as his ability to do anything without precondition. That is because concurrent causation by God necessarily involves concurrent causation by us too!. God’s capabilities in a given situation therefore depend (in part!) on our state at that time. Are you prepared to go there?

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Ian

          The classic formulation of concurrence is that God creates secondary causes (which therefore act according to powers he has conferred), and as his ongoing government, confirms, or does not confirm, those powers according to his desired outcomes. He remains the omnipotent First Cause in all things, therefore.

          That is fairly easily comprehensible for non-rational entities, but is the same in principle for beings with wills, as long as free-will is not seen as causeless and arbitrary.

          Currently I prefer the more sophisticated conception of those like Hugh McCann, which more clearly states the creatorial priority of God in all events, with secondary powers, including human will, remaining secondary yet still free and therefore, in effect, at a different level of causality.

          Both conceptions (and others) are still working with the idea of double action, ie concurrence. Whilst I value all attempts to understand it in more detail, I’m more concerned that concurrence in some form avoids the pitfalls leading up to Open Theism and beyond, and does more justice to the Scriptural picture of God. All beyond that is a bonus.

          But I’m still not clear how you envisage the ongoing impartation of “love, life and wisdom” being cashed out in the realm of non-rational life, and perhaps even more in the inanimate creation.

          And in human affairs, one of the main problems to be solved is how what man intends for harm (the death of Joseph – the silencing of Jesus) God intends for good (the saving of many in Egypt – the defeat of sin and death).

          • Ian Thompson says:

            I agree with your classic formulation of concurrence as far as I can tell. I think we agree that the secondary causes produce God’s desired outcomes always for animals (no free will for them), but not always for humans (when they use their free will to act not in accordance with God’s love and/or wisdom). [We certainly read about that in the bible].

            Moreover, I insist that God can always see/know in advance what we are going to freely choose. We still have to choose, since we are the secondary causes and do have to act: we cannot just sit still and wait.

            That is how what man intends for harm can be what God intends for Good: God foresaw what would happen to Joseph and Jesus. Given the harmful desires of others, he will still have often nudged many participants to give the best result for everyone. [This omniscience for the future is not in Open Theism.] Sometimes he even nudges explicitly (as with the prophets).

            I take the above statements to be standard Christianity.

            For non-rational life, we have to think more, but still starting from the bible. I take non-rational creatures to still receive (via concurrent causation) various restricted parts of love and wisdom. That is, they still have lives based on desires and instincts and perceptions: those parts of love and wisdom which can be received by their structure and physiology: their limited imago dei. That is, I extrapolate and ‘scale down’ that ‘image of god’ from humans down to animals. After all, creating animals was a step in creating humans, we both read and see. Even plants have very primitive perception, and certainly appear to have a desire to grow.
            (Christians vary on generalizing the imago dei).

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              Ian

              We seem to be on essentially the same page on this. I like your “endowed according to their capacities” approach in final para – which, of course, doesn’t assume to much about what we can know about those capacities.

              You might be interested to sound out McHugh’s approach some time – his aim is to retain a libertarian conception of free will within the overarching will of God. If successful, it avoids the entanglements of foreknowledge and nudging, replacing them with full foreordination yet without “interference” in freely-made decisions.

              His interest is the classical one of human free-will, of course: I don’t think he wrote much about lesser secondary causes, but if he handles more autonomy satisfactorily, less autonomy is no problem.

  2. Ian Thompson says:

    I’ll look at the video.

    • Ian Thompson says:

      McCann says: “We do not cause our own actions”. We “come complete with our decisions”. Before you are created, “there are not any possibilities for you to talk about”.
      And God “creates everything at once” and “does not choose among options”.
      He does everything in one step, not by states. “Only an inferior God would have to plan”.

      He says that “The possibilities aren’t there until after the reality is there”. That is a strange idea of the relation between actualities and possibilities. After all, everything actual was at least possible before it existed. That is because, if the actuality were not possible before it existed, it would be impossible that it existed!
      He sounds like the Megarians that Aristotle complained about, where possibilities are not in nature, but only in our concepts of nature.

      These views are indeed bizarre.
      McCann’s God does not sound like the Living God we see revealed in the Bible.

      Reality is surely not as barely simple as he conceives it.

      • Ian Thompson says:

        Correct ‘not by states’ to ‘not by stages’.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Ian

          McCann’s God does not sound like the Living God we see revealed in the Bible.

          On the contrary, I think he’s consistent with many of the hints about “the deep things of God” (which I guess is the matter under discussion) found in Scripture, though clearly also in the tradition of Catholic Scholasticism.

          The whole tenor of Scripture is that “God knows the end from the beginning” not because he is constantly adjusting his actions to creaturely responses which he foresees, but because he determines the end, and by implication the means – including free choices.

          Thus in the story of Joseph and his brothers, it is people who react to God’s initiatives (Joseph and Pharaoh’s dreams, the provision of strolling slave-traders, the famine sent by God etc). And so it says, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good,”, rather than “What you intended for evil, God turned to good.”

          That is why the Scholastics, and the Reformers after them, saw that distant prophecy (say of Jesus’s betrayal and trial) was dependant on what God had determined by his word of power, rather that what he foresaw humans would choose. For they saw that God who creates in eternity and sustains in being all things, and events, must in some way have created human actions too: hence their discussion about God’s creating events, but humans the sin in those events (an idea I believe goes back as far as Augustine).

          McCann, like the scholastics, seeks to square the genuineness of this divine creative sovereignty with genuine human freedom to choose, and he does it by developing the concept of dual cuasation along the lines that modern Thomists do: that God’s creative causation is of a different order than, rather than in competition with, secondary causes. As First Cause, he does not nudge secondary causes, but causes secondary causes, which therefore retain their inherent nature as lawlike, chancelike or freely willed causes.

          (We can, however, distinguish the revelatory character of miracles, divine communications, special grace and special providence: these may still in their deep sense be part of God’s single act of creation in eternity, but are expressions in time of his compassion, teaching, judgement and so on.

          McCann’s talk of “possibilities”, or lack of them, is a response to Molinist ideas that God foresees all the possible free actions of those he might create, and deliberates to choose the one reality he will create out of all of them. But to McCann this is nonsense – free choices cannot be made hypothetically by non-existent creatures. Instead, God freely and spontaneously creates what his love and wisdom decides, and includes freedom within it.

          All this, to Open Theists at least, makes it look as if “God calls all the shots” – but the doctrine that all things begin and end with God is thoroughly Scriptural (as I hope to explore in the next post), and so is the concept that true religion is to know God as he isbetter: this appears to be what “relationship with God” is all about in the Bible revelation.

          • Ian Thompson says:

            What happened to ‘concurrent causation’?

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              It’s in there – all concurrent schemes imply some priority to be coherent (accidental synchronicity isn’t really plausible).

              The question has always been whether God proposes and man disposes, or vice-versa. Even in process theology, the persuasion comes from God’s ideas of what would be good to happen.

          • Ian Thompson says:

            Why is God always (in the Bible) telling Israel (and us) what to do?

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              Because secondary causes are real, and because God’s love towards rational creatures is relational.

              “…continue to work out your own salvation in fear and trembling [a command to obey] for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

              “A person plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps.”

              “The LORD works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.”

              As to the “why” in its deepest sense, the rock on which philosophers stumble (whether Scholastics or Open Theists) is when they try to use human reason to explore depths God does not reveal.

          • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

            Jon, I find some passages in this reply arresting. In particular:

            The whole tenor of Scripture is that “God knows the end from the beginning” not because he is constantly adjusting his actions to creaturely responses which he foresees, but because he determines the end, and by implication the means – including free choices.

            Thus in the story of Joseph and his brothers, it is people who react to God’s initiatives (Joseph and Pharaoh’s dreams, the provision of strolling slave-traders, the famine sent by God etc). And so it says, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good,”, rather than “What you intended for evil, God turned to good.”

            I’m not yet sure I agree with your position here, but you have put the alternatives very well, and that helps me to think it out.

            I will keep these formulations in mind as I think on these questions in the future.

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              Eddie

              In any contemplation of dual causation, I think the key thing is studiously to avoid concepts like “compulsion”.

              That is hard, because in any human analogy, the “wills” involved have some kind of parity. So if you get me to do what you want, you must use force, argument, deceit, sweet influences and so on.

              It’s always possible to say that “the real me” wants something else, and therefore to resent your influence. I think such a conflict is inevitable given univocity of being between God and us.

              But in the case of God, he creates the “real me”. And according to fairly basic salvation doctrine, in conversion he creates a new heart and a new will to follow his ways , as in Ezekiel’s outlining of the New Covenant:

              “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
              “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances…”

              Yet even in salvation, all the human secondary causes of preaching, persuasion, conviction, decision (and doubt, backsliding etc) remain in place.

  3. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    In fact, this retreat into mystery more more discouraging than otherwise.

    Ian, you sound like the OTs there, who regard classical theism’s retention of “mystery” as intellectual suicide and a stumblingblock for the believer (though it’s been pointed out they resort to it themselves at key points). William C. Davis, commenting on this, describes “the American distaste for mystery”.

    But as far as I am concerned, mystery is inevitable at the end of any intellectual quest about God. The question is only where the line between what is revealed and what is secret lies. My own criterion for that is, as far as possible, where Scripture draws those lines. For example, I dislike theodicies because in all the places the Bible raises such problems (notably the Book of Job, Romans 9, for example) it steadfastly refuses to do much more than point one to God’s inscrutability (in the context of his attributes of love, goodness, wisdom etc). And there’s no doubt that Scripture, juxtaposing human decision against God’s determinations, leaves the “how” a mystery.

    In my reading only half an hour ago, I read Isaiah’s prophecy against Sennacherib, the essence of which is, “You planned to come and fight against me and destroy my people? Don’t you realise I planned this long ago, in days of old.” (2 Kings 19).

    McCann’s book (which like any philosophical work is not apt to summarise at the length possible here) takes one possible path to the edge of the mystery: if it’s not helpful that’s a shame, because since he died earlier this year he’s not going to take it further. But he’s only building on the understanding of the Scriptural witness taken by Classical theists for centuries. For example, the Westminster confession:

    Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

    That is all I was attempting to say in my last reply. In essence it’s the same line taken by Aquinas in his work on providence (referenced here, and even Arminius here

    And so, somehow, God’s forordination is quite compatible with our decisions being real (“free” begs the liberatarian/compatibilist question somewhat), and therefore with his commanding, admonishing or encouraging us in our deliberation – and at another level still, acting by special grace to renew our hearts to (willing) obedience.

    If someone can account for all those Scriptural elements without recourse to mystery at some point, I’m suspicious of the explanation!

  4. Ian Thompson says:

    Mysteries we can live with.

    It is contradictions which have to be dealt with.
    (From inconsistent premises, you can prove anything)

  5. Ian Thompson says:

    You have to be very careful if you follow McCann, since he abolishes all possibilities in nature, and only allows them in concepts. No ‘de re’ possibilities, only abstract ones. No possibilities in this world, only imaging other possible worlds.

    For possibility in nature is the potency and potentiality and power and cause that Aristotle relies on. Things that are responsible for changes. After all, we want changes that actually result from potency. Otherwise it is ‘potency’ in name only (PINO), which undermines the whole basis of Aristotle and Aquinas!

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      I’ll aim to be more careful when I get round to reading McCann’s book a second time, Ian! The whole concept of what is “possible” in the intersection between God’s eternity and our changing time is fraught with difficulties.

      Whatever line I take, I’m drawn to what, I read the other day, a theology lecturer wrote on the blackboard on the very first day of the course:

      “There is a God. You are not him.”

      Keeping that in mind relativises all our discussions, I think.

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